When is the last time you talked to your parents about money – their money? Do they have any income besides Social Security? How much? Is it enough? Do they have any other financial assets such as real estate, stocks, bonds, a 401(k), or something else? How much do they have? Where are their records? Have they made arrangements for someone else to handle their finances if something unexpected happened to them?
How about their health? Is there something they haven’t told you about? Can they afford all of the medications they should be taking? Or, do they have to skip some? What prescriptions, supplements and over-the-counter medications are they taking? What if they’re hospitalized and unconscious: have they set up their ICE numbers (In Case of Emergency) in their phone? Who are their doctors? Their pharmacy?
These are some of the most difficult questions you’ll ever ask your parent. You may even get some strong push-back — resistance because you’ll be intruding into their private affairs. For some, it may seem like you’re questioning their ability to make the right decisions. They may even be too embarrassed to tell you because — deep down — they know they should have done things differently.
Think of your talks as a series of information-gathering sessions that slowly build. Accept the information that is being given to you and honor it as enough for that moment. By acknowledging the enoughness of one piece of information, we can then move on to being available to hear and receive the next whether it is about money, health, homes, possessions, plans and more. Be patient. Work with your parent by offering reassurance that you are not trying to take advantage of them, or take control over their lives.
On the other hand, this is vital information that you’ll eventually need to know — whether it’s to help them if they suffer a gradual decline in their cognitive or physical capabilities. Or suddenly — in the blink of an eye — because of a car accident, a stroke, a heart attack or another medical emergency.
So, how do you find out what you need to know? And, how do you get them to set up a Living Will? A Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney for Health Care? A Power of Attorney for Finances? A Will? How do you talk to them when it’s time for them to stop driving? How can you do all of this — without stepping on sensitive toes? Or, without them clamming up, refusing to tell you anything?
Actually, there are four separate talks you’ll need to have with your parent. And, you may need to use a different approach for each one.